Health, chronic conditions, and behavioral risk disparities among U.S. immigrant children and adolescents

Gopal K Singh, Stella M Yu, Michael D Kogan
Public Health Reports 2013, 128 (6): 463-79

OBJECTIVE: We examined differentials in the prevalence of 23 parent-reported health, chronic condition, and behavioral indicators among 91,532 children of immigrant and U.S.-born parents.

METHODS: We used the 2007 National Survey of Children's Health to estimate health differentials among 10 ethnic-nativity groups. Logistic regression yielded adjusted differentials.

RESULTS: Immigrant children in each racial/ethnic group had a lower prevalence of depression and behavioral problems than native-born children. The prevalence of autism varied from 0.3% among immigrant Asian children to 1.3%-1.4% among native-born non-Hispanic white and Hispanic children. Immigrant children had a lower prevalence of asthma, attention deficit disorder/attention deficit hyperactivity disorder; developmental delay; learning disability; speech, hearing, and sleep problems; school absence; and ≥ 1 chronic condition than native-born children, with health risks increasing markedly in relation to mother's duration of residence in the U.S. Immigrant children had a substantially lower exposure to environmental tobacco smoke, with the odds of exposure being 60%-95% lower among immigrant non-Hispanic black, Asian, and Hispanic children compared with native non-Hispanic white children. Obesity prevalence ranged from 7.7% for native-born Asian children to 24.9%-25.1% for immigrant Hispanic and native-born non-Hispanic black children. Immigrant children had higher physical inactivity levels than native-born children; however, inactivity rates declined with each successive generation of immigrants. Immigrant Hispanic children were at increased risk of obesity and sedentary behaviors. Ethnic-nativity differentials in health and behavioral indicators remained marked after covariate adjustment.

CONCLUSIONS: Immigrant patterns in child health and health-risk behaviors vary substantially by ethnicity, generational status, and length of time since immigration. Public health programs must target at-risk children of both immigrant and U.S.-born parents.

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